God's Love Compels Us is a collection of sermons based on the text of 2 Corinthians 4-5 (4 sermons), Psalm 22 (1 sermon), and two other topical sermons written by well educated men who are preachers or scholars or missionaries. The first three sermons are by D.A. Carson (who also edited the book), David Platt, and John Piper. The rest of the sermons were written by gentlemen I've never heard of before, but hearing their stories and ideas was refreshing and was welcome. I especially enjoyed the contributions written by Michael Oh and Mack Stiles.
The first four sermons (each sermon makes up a chapter for a total of 7 chapters) are wholly exegetical sermons and follow the text being expounded closely. Two of the last three sermons are topical. Michael Oh's contribution is an exposition of Psalm 22. I would expect nothing else from a Don Carson book. The book is dense and packed with deep theological thoughts and ideas which flow from a deeply held Reformed theology. There is not a lot of nuance to the sermons. They are fairly straightforward propositional and exegetical sermons.
The work focuses primarily on the issue of missions work and why we do it and perhaps to a lesser extent how we do it. There's a lot of emphasis on where we do missions work also.
I have but a couple of thoughts.
There are a lot of stories about missionaries from days gone by who did the hard work of taking the Gospel to strange and exotic locations–like CT Studd who went to China or Hudson Taylor who did the same. And even though I've heard these stories hundreds of times in books and sermons it is still good to hear them afresh, maybe from a different angle. There are a lot of statistics about how many people live in the world and how many are unsaved ("If Jesus did rise from the dead, then it is the height of arrogance to sit quietly by while 597 million Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs in North India go to hell.", 26*, sermon by David Platt. I'm not sure who among us is sitting around arrogantly while this happens, but I suppose a little rhetorical hyperbole is the way preachers work.) You will also find in this book a lot of the standard Reformed doctrines of salvation. This is not a bad thing in and of itself (even if I don't happen to buy all of the propositions), but it seems to me there is so much more worth exploring that perhaps the preachers should have given some thought to varying the messages. In other words, there is a tremendous amount of repetition in the book. And as good as salvation is, I am inclined to think that the apostle Paul, who wrote the letter a number of these sermons are based upon, had a little more in mind when he was writing than mere formulations of theological salvation propositions.
For example, what about the kingdom of God? I was able to find all of four references to the Kingdom of God in the entire book. This was disappointing if it is true that we 'represent the foreign power of the kingdom of God' (Stiles, chapter 4). I wish this idea had been explored a little more within the context of God's love compelling us to missionary work.
We also hear a lot about the exotic locations around the world where there is a serious deficiency of Gospel proclamation and belief. Yes. It is true there are a lot of Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus without the Gospel in the Middle East, India, and Asia. What we don't hear a lot about in this book is the deficits here in America. If we are looking for depth of faith as opposed to width of belief then maybe those who are Christians in the Middle East or India or Asia or Africa ought to be sending missionaries to the United States instead of the other way around. It's just a thought, but it seems to me that, to a certain extent, this book is too well educated to stir up the common American Christian to do much. Indeed, it is based on a pre-conference conference on world mission 'designed especially, though not exclusively, for students' in 'April 2013' (from the preface).
Is this a book that will stir up the church in general? Is the audience preachers who will read it? Students who will study it for a cross-cultural evangelism class in undergraduate school? This is a book that needs to be in the hands of the church in general so I wonder if the authors are, to a sad extent, preaching to the choir?
Carson writes in the preface that world mission is no longer "'from the West to the rest,' but more like 'from everywhere to everywhere..'" And this is my point. Still, the book doesn't lay much emphasis on this 'everywhereness' to include the USA. I well understand the book's intention, but this seems to me a deficiency. If it is true that, as Carson writes, there are 'thousands of unreached people groups' and 'larger populations where knowledge of Scripture is desperately thin' and places where 'nominalism or syncretism reigns supreme' and 'the gospel is poorly understood and widely disbelieved' then it seems to me someone ought to have addressed this concern directly here in the USA where all of this is true too. This is my opinion. I didn't edit or write the book. I just think that what he is describing is, in fact, America. Look around! The famine is here in America too.
Another important aspect of the book is something that Stiles said in chapter four, something I have not heard any other preacher say in the days since our world in America changed: "We were convinced that the response of the church to the events of 9/11 must not be military, but missionary. So we moved when the home sold" (p 53). This is absolutely overwhelming! And what Stiles did was move to the Middle East. I don't think I have read a single line like this in all the books I have read since 9/11/01, by any author, from any denomination. I don't think I've heard a single preacher say this. Why? This quote alone should be preached and is worth the price of the book.
I wish this had been said more by preachers. I'm convinced that it is the only way anything is going to happen even now so many years removed from that event. I think what's happening, though, is that the church is ceding more and more of this prerogative to our government. It's not just in matters of international diplomacy either. It's all around us as churches lose ground in our cities and states and small towns and governments, big and little, local, state, and federal gain ground. It's sad, really, that this Kingdom to which we belong and which we are gives so much ground. The gates of hell shall not prevail, said Jesus. Hmm.
A book on missions is, thus, important and necessary for here in America too.
Finally, a disappointment. There is not a single contribution by a woman in the book. Yes, it is edited by Kathleen Nielson and she gets some props in the preface written by Carson. But she doesn't even get a line on a dedication page. I'm terribly disappointed that we get to hear from zero of the outstanding female voices in the evangelical church–voices that would certainly add depth and perspective to the idea of world missions. I wish the editors and publisher would have given this more thought and tried to include at least one female voice.
When it's all said and done, I think this is a helpful book. I'm not enamored with the all of the writing (mostly because I've read enough of Carson's work that he is predictable at this point and I'm not really a fan of Piper). Hearing from some fresh voices was a good thing for this book (Oh, Stiles, and Um were especially welcome voices) and I hope to hear some more from these preachers in the future.
The book has a helpful page at the end where we learn more of the biographical information about the authors–their education, family life, and educational background. There is a very helpful index and another Scripture index that I found especially useful. On my ePub version everything is hyperlinked which I love! I was also able to highlight and add notes which again I love. Notes are at the end of each chapter which is better than at the end of the book.
I will leave this review with a quote from the book that I found to be especially fruitful and which, in my opinion, needs to be offered more and more by preachers in America. To this end, it is my hope that preachers who read this book will be challenged to preach the Gospel–in season and out of season, to their congregations–in order that this Kingdom to which we belong, that this God who loves us so, will be plainly evident to the world and so that once again the church will start pushing back the gates of hell:
Consider Luke 14:13-14…Note that, in context, Jesus is primarily concerned not with giving guidelines for how to throw a party, but with challenging the give-to-get economy under which the Pharisees are operating. They throw parties and invite honorable guests in order to be invited to parties thrown by honorable guests. Jesus is suggesting that they radically flip this on its head. He is making the point that, if you know the unrepayable, nonmercenary nature of God's grace, it is borne out in your actions: you engage in one-way giving, being radically generous with your time, money, and relational capital. In other words, those who have received a gift that they can never repay are those who have the resources to give away gifts that can never be repaid. (101)
Yep. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Important Book & Author Things
- Where to purchase God's Love Compels Us Amazon (Kindle, $9.59) CBD ($11.49) Crossway ($14.99)
- Author: D.A. Carson & Kathleen Nielson
- Publisher: Crossway
- Pages: 126
- Year: 2015
- Audience:Pastors, preachers, Christians, missionaries, students
- Reading Level: High School
- Disclaimer: I was provided a free reader's copy courtesy of Crossway via the Beyond the Book Blogger program
- *My page numbers are based on the ePub version I downloaded for my NOOK reader. Page numbers may or may not correspond to print versions or Kindle locations.